Have you noticed how much easier it is to remember directions in your own city? Think about the last time your printer ran out of ink and you had to jot directions to a restaurant on a post-it. Compare that to writing out directions from a hotel to a restaurant in an unfamiliar city.
It's a lot easier on familiar turf. Why? Near home, the directions are anchored by points of familiarity in your mind. You already know how to get to someplace nearby, so you can use that as a ready point of reference. Closer to home, you get to use all kinds of reference points: your work, familiar street names, the park you go to, etc. Because that's the way your brain works. In your brain, everything is a relative reference.
This is equally true if you are communicating directions to someone, rather than just writing them down for yourself. The better you know the person, the easier it is: "go like you're headed to work, but turn left just before that Thai restaurant you like." Not only are the directions concise, they are simple enough that you probably don't need to write them down. Communicating is a lot easier when there are shared experiences, reference points, and a sense of "knowing what the other person knows."
There are lessons in here somewhere for those of us who create software. After all, we spend a lot of time with our computer trying to find things, either on the computer (photos, spreadsheets) or with the computer (a book on Amazon, that page you Delicious'd -- or did you mark it in Google Reader?). I often think of this when I'm using Delicious. I know I bookmarked something, but wading through the tag cloud to find it again takes too long. I usually end up finding it with a few Google searches. When the first search fails, there's usually something in those first results which triggers my memory on the keywords that will retrieve it.
Can software infer what is familiar terrain for us, and provide navigation relative to that? Can Google or Delicious know what my mental "anchors" are, and help me find stuff from there?
An OS-level example: I have a dozen or so Ruby on Rails projects in /Users/andre/projects/rails/, and I spend a lot of time in the immediate subdirectories. If there were a heat map of the places I spend time in, this directory would be hot. Would that be useful as a navigational device? Possibly. If a place got hot enough, the OS could ask me to label it in a way that's meaningful to me. I might use that as a jumping-off point as long as spend a lot of time on Rails projects.
Obviously there are pitfalls when trying to get a computer to guess what you're trying to do, or what's important to you (R.I.P Clippy). Still, there are bound to be payoffs for trying to get the computer to present navigation the way you think, rather than how it computes. A good start is to think about how our brains tend to remember things clustered relative to familiar points of reference.
So I set up a tumblelog over at Andre Lewis' tumblelog. Original name huh?
I like tumblr because it is very convenient to post to. Adding the tumblelog may be too many publishing venues for me though. Here's the breakdown:
- blogging: longer, more analytical or technical posts
- tumblelog: short posts, bookmarks, pictures from my phone
- facebook status updates: things that are short and/or ephemeral and/or only of interest to my friends
- delicious: bookmarks . . . despite the fact that I never look back at them, because Google always leads me to it quicker (this is another post however)
I don't use twitter, except to pipe my Facebook status updates. If I did, it would be for things even more ephemeral than Facebook status updates.
At some point, all this is going to have to come together and be much easier than it is today.
- catch up on some of those neglected RSS feeds. Google Reader makes it easier to read a few posts at a time without committing to a long session.
- check in on those Google groups you belong to but rarely read.
- go back to NYTimes, since Select is free again.
- browse upcoming and squidlist for interesting things happening in the real world.
- read DZone. There are a lot of good links there.
I came up to Portland a little early this week to hang out with family before Railsconf starts on Thursday. I am excited about the conference, it's going to be a blast.
Now that the schedules are finalized, the Business of Rails panel panel I'm doing is on Saturday at 11:45-12:35.
The PS3, Xbox360, and Wii have distinct personalities. Here's who I think they would be, if they were people you know:
I spent one night on the road both directions. There's a really nice hostel at almost exactly the midway point (the HI-Redwood Hostel in Klamath, CA), which I recommend if you like that kind of lodging (I do when I travel solo).
Awesome trip overall!
- Total miles: 1425
- $ spent on gas: $91
As you probably know, I've been a fan of jQuery for some time, and have been using it on some of my Rails projects instead of Prototype.js. I'm happy to be working with John Resig and the rest of the jQuey community to get the word out on this great library.
Hotspotr (hotstpor.com) is a community-driven directory of cafes with wireless internet access here in San Francisco. This is a community effort, and the more listings it has the better -- so if you're in the San Francisco area, go ahead and add your favorite cafe.
Hotspotr is built in Ruby on Rails, and has served as a testing ground for my Rails/Google Maps development over the last couple months. I hope it will become a useful resource for others who enjoy getting out of the office and doing work in cafes.
Some things to note as you look around the site:
- Open listings: anyone can add or update cafe listings
- Google maps integration: the map view lets you see cafes citywide, or filtered by a specific San Francisco neighborhood
- GMaps "Zoom" control: if you're using Firefox, there's a nifty "zoom" control on the main map view, which lets you outline a region on the map to center and zoom. Safari users -- this feature is coming soon
- Ratings & collective opinion: there's a nice AJAXy rating system to aggregate collective opinion on important things like the availability of power outlets
My co-conspiritor for this effort is Josh Susser from has_many :through. We're not ready to talk about details of the project, but definitely expect something cool and useful!
update: Chris Wanstrath is a part of our team as well. I'm really looking forward to this!
Beyond RD'06, I've had a lot going on over the last few weeks. Last month I sold some commercial development/consulting on Rails -- a hosted lead management system for small business. Also, I'm getting ready to launch an experiment in Web 2.0-style collaboration (codename Thoth) -- it will go up in the next few days.
As I get organized back here at home, I'll resume posting here again regularly.
Without a moment's hesitation, 5,000 people are playing a reasonably good game of Pong. Each move of the paddle is the average of several thousand players' intentions. The sensation is unnerving. The paddle usually does what you intend, but not always. When it doesn't, you find yourself spending as much attention trying to anticipate the paddle as the incoming ball.Read it here: http://www.kk.org/outofcontrol/ch2-b.html
This is a user interface which utilizes multiple touchpoints on an interactive display. The description doesn't do it justice, so just watch the video -- you will be impressed!
While touch sensing is commonplace for single points of contact, multi-touch sensing enables a user to interact with a system with more than one finger at a time, as in chording and bi-manual operations. Such sensing devices are inherently also able to accommodate multiple users simultaneously, which is especially useful for larger interaction scenarios such as interactive walls and tabletops
Look for the parts in the video where they are 1) sorting photos; 2) navigating Google Earth.
Definitely an improvement from an aesthetic standpoint . . .
A select group of digerati will roll into the Pointe South Mountain Resort in Phoenix, Arizona next week for the DEMO '06 conference. The annual event is often a showcase for eye-popping emerging technologies, often from early startup companies. While not all the companies become successful with their ideas, many do.
A report on the morning session s is here DEMO 06: Morning Report (from HorsePigCow)
"I'm currently launching RoofShout.com with no money, no real experience running a business on the internet, and no real solid business plan," Fitz-Gerald said. "But I figure there's a lot of blank roofs and a lot of advertising that could go on the roofs."Wired's story here
digg anxiety: the fear that right now, while you're looking at something else, there are cool stories going through digg which you are missing.
We didn't really have this problem with Slashdot -- I think it has to do with the sheer volume of stories on digg . . .
In a nutshell: Same formfactor and basic aesthetic; Samsung has superior software, more memory, and external, dedicated buttons for playing music. RAZR is slightly slicker looking.
Also, Samsung has built-in speech to text software so you can dictate text messages! Nice.
The Ajaxian publishes a lot of intereresting Ajax-related content. If you aren't already reading these guys' blog, definately check it out!